Safe TV series for teenage convalescent?
January 11, 2013 3:02 AM   Subscribe

My 13-year old (female) cousin is at home in bed with chronic fatigue, and I'd like to send her something fun to watch, preferably with strong female characters. I thought of 'Veronica Mars' or 'Buffy' but have concluded that some of the themes are a bit too adult for her. Any recommendations?

She's already gone through 'Friends' and 'New Girl'. I've looked at this thread on Good-Bad-Teenage-TV but again, a lot of the stuff I'd like myself seems a bit too challenging (or at least too challenging for someone other than a parent to suggest).
I'd love suggestions, or some indication of whether any of the series mentioned on the other thread would be ok. Thanks.
posted by melisande to Media & Arts (54 answers total) 11 users marked this as a favorite
What about King of the Hill? It doesn't have the adult themes that shows like Family Guy has - where there are references to such things it's extremely subtle and would go over her head - it's essentially a family sitcom about fathers and sons which happens to be animated. Peggy Hill kicks ass, and the relationship between her and Hank (who is a traditional macho man but still loves and supports his wife's strong-willed decisions) is really nicely portrayed. (Caveat: there's a season 3 episode which is pretty dark, but it's not characteristic of the show.)

If she likes Friends, how about NewsRadio? Lisa and Beth are great characters, and the episodes that are set in outer space or on the Titanic for no apparent reason are just ridiculous. There seems to be full episodes on YouTube. I liked Frasier a lot at her age too, because of the mix of farce and smarts.

Drop Dead Diva is light enough for teenage viewing, doesn't cover any sexual or violent themes but feels just grown-up enough to be interesting to a young lass with the workplace setting, and has a character learning a lot about body image and beauty and whether brains are just as good as looks. I would have liked it a lot as a teen.
posted by mippy at 3:16 AM on January 11, 2013 [1 favorite]

I'd say Gilmore Girls, but if she gets past the first season or two, things get maybe a bit more mature than you'd like.
posted by knile at 3:18 AM on January 11, 2013 [7 favorites]

Gilmore Girls.
posted by amro at 3:19 AM on January 11, 2013 [4 favorites]

adventure time?
posted by gryftir at 3:33 AM on January 11, 2013 [4 favorites]

Can you clarify what's mature about the ones she can't watch and ok about the ones she can watch? Lots of casual sex in Friends and New Girl, bondage and drunkenness in NG, etc. Is it more comedy vs. drama?
posted by headnsouth at 3:37 AM on January 11, 2013 [4 favorites]

Somewhat left-field, but how about Daria? Naturally, the fashions and why people don't have cellphones will be totally inexplicable...
posted by running order squabble fest at 3:37 AM on January 11, 2013 [9 favorites]

Firefly (link goes to review on Common Sense Media, which I recommend as a way to search media and messages for children). They also have an article up now called Best TV for Girls.
posted by cocoagirl at 3:44 AM on January 11, 2013 [2 favorites]

Avatar? In a way it's a bit young but it has a lot of adult fans.
posted by Erasmouse at 3:46 AM on January 11, 2013 [2 favorites]

Thanks v much for the answers so far, Gilmore Girls is a great idea. To clarify about what I was thinking in response to headnsouth: casual sex clearly not problematic to her parents who gave her 'Friends', my concern was more about 'realistic' treatment of stories about murder, drugs, violence, parental incompetence, that might be alarming or disturbing. Actually writing that out suggests to me that 'Buffy' might be ok after all.
posted by melisande at 3:47 AM on January 11, 2013 [1 favorite]

Tim Burton's Alice in Wonderland - it's not only a visual treat throughout, but also gives me a warm glow at the end when Alice **SPOILER ALERT** turns out to be a proto-feminist who shuns bustles and corsets for exploration on the high sea :)
posted by greenish at 3:50 AM on January 11, 2013

Home Movies
posted by WeekendJen at 3:53 AM on January 11, 2013 [2 favorites]

Ugly Betty? I enjoyed the female characters in this show, I particularly like that Betty is both dorky and tough, and gets more and more confident as the series progresses. It is a bit of a ridiculous soap, with nothing too alarming.

I also watched this a lot while sick and I think the bright colours and pretty clothes are nice to watch when you're convalescing :)
posted by Ziggy500 at 3:57 AM on January 11, 2013 [2 favorites]

Futurama? Modern Family? DEGRASSI??? (And seconding Daria. That show is awesome, and finally on DVD.)

If she likes sitcoms, a lot of the current ones are good, in addition to Modern Family - your Parks and Rec, early seasons of The Office (and 30 Rock, though that's potentially less interesting to a teenager). Plus most of them are on Netflix, which knocks them out easily. Last time I checked, Buffy was, too.

(I started watching Buffy when I was 11 - it was fine. Buffy was built for teenagers. Obviously you know your cousin better than I do, but Veronica Mars is wonderful too, and definitely more developmentally appropriate than New Girl - which I love a lot, but oy.)

Also, what about Dawson's Creek and Felicity? Same era as Gilmore Girls. I enjoyed those a lot when I was thirteen. Don't know how dated they'd look now. Felicity is on Netflix too!
posted by goodbyewaffles at 3:57 AM on January 11, 2013 [1 favorite]

I would say that if she's watched New Girl she's probably able to handle Buffy, but if you're not comfortable with that, I really liked the Ugly Betty suggestion. I also loved Joan of Arcadia, Popular and Freaks and Geeks as a teen.
posted by GilvearSt at 4:15 AM on January 11, 2013

Freaks and Geeks? My So Called Life?
posted by gaspode at 4:37 AM on January 11, 2013 [7 favorites]

If she's into sci-fi, Doctor Who is an ideal series for pre-teens. You could get her started with the first series of the reboot.
posted by Rock Steady at 4:44 AM on January 11, 2013 [9 favorites]

Jane and the Dragon. Despite it being a CGI cartoon aimed at children, I found it charming and engaging when I discovered it as an adult. And I'm picky about story, art, and strong female characters. Plus, if she's not feeling well, something supposedly for children may be comforting. On that note, let me also recommend The Secret of NIMH
posted by tllaya at 4:47 AM on January 11, 2013 [1 favorite]

Ooh, and The Powerpuff Girls!
posted by tllaya at 4:54 AM on January 11, 2013 [1 favorite]

I'm fairly positive Daria was my favorite show at that age.
posted by retrograde at 5:05 AM on January 11, 2013 [2 favorites]

Seconding Doctor Who. Especially since the 2005 reboot, since it's more-often-than-not the female companion who saves the day instead of the Doctor.
posted by afx237vi at 5:33 AM on January 11, 2013 [2 favorites]

Definitely Freaks and Geeks (on netflix)
posted by atlantica at 5:34 AM on January 11, 2013 [2 favorites]

Along the lines of Doctor Who, check out The Middleman. A kick-ass female protagonist, and so very much fun to watch.
posted by Johnny Assay at 5:38 AM on January 11, 2013 [3 favorites]

My daughter and her friends worked their way through Buffy at 13 and it was fine (I watched a lot with her in the beginning to make sure). They are all now 14 and 15 and are totally into Doctor Who. I recommend Joan of Arcadia as well for another drama.

She is now working her way through some comedies she was a bit young for when they started like The Office, Parks and Rec, Community, and 30 Rock.

Together we have been catching up on all of the classic 80's movies like Sixteen Candles, Pretty in Pink, Weird Science, Breakfast Club, etc. She likes them and finds the fashions hysterical.
posted by maxg94 at 5:51 AM on January 11, 2013

I would have loved Downton Abbey at that age.
posted by three_red_balloons at 6:02 AM on January 11, 2013 [4 favorites]

Quantum Leap?
posted by lemniskate at 6:08 AM on January 11, 2013 [1 favorite]

Dance Academy!
posted by something something at 6:09 AM on January 11, 2013 [2 favorites]

Does she like cartoons at all? My kids (and my daughter especially) really liked The Simpsons, Futurama, Family Guy, South Park, and King of the Hill at that age. Family Guy is probably the most edge case if her parents are concerned about content and South Park is probably past that edge. But Futurama and Simpsons both have great strong female characters, and with Simpsons she could convalesce well into adulthood without running out of episodes.

Daughter at that age also liked H20, an Australian show about mermaids that is more typically "child appropriate", along with Degrassi for a while.

(I won't tell you not to worry about content, but unless she's unusually sheltered or sensitive, by 13 or 14 many (most?) kids are starting to get exposed to "mature" media content and have gotten or will soon be getting their first injection of sex/drugs health ed. From that point out, the strategy (IMHO) should not focus on sheltering them from content but on establishing open dialogue with parents and other trusted adults so that they can have a healthy framework to contextualize that content.)
posted by drlith at 6:09 AM on January 11, 2013

Jane and the Dragon, for sure. Also Wonderfalls and Joan of Arcadia.
posted by Dolley at 6:25 AM on January 11, 2013

Being Erica
posted by livinglearning at 6:30 AM on January 11, 2013 [1 favorite]

I was going to suggest Gilmore Girls, but saw that a few already have so I'll suggest Bunheads (brought to you by the same people who created Gilmore Girls!).
posted by blithecatpie at 6:48 AM on January 11, 2013

The good thing about Gilmore Girls is that the treatment of "mature issues" (and starts handling it quite badly, with dating the jerk and sleeping with bad ideas and stuff) comes around at about the same time that the show kind of starts to suck; you're fine sticking with the first couple of seasons-- when that content does show up, it's handled in a way that's pretty mature and healthy.

If she's geeky, you might give Futurama a go. Any other interests/hobbies/etc she has? We might be able to get into less general shows if she has, I don't know, a deep and abiding love for Arthurian mythology. Or, you know, sports. Or vampires. Etc.

Audiobooks are also great for if you're stuck in bed.
posted by NoraReed at 7:16 AM on January 11, 2013

Bodacious Space Pirates.

Despite the name, it is not a fan-service show. The main character, Marika, is wonderful, and adapts rapidly to becoming the ship captain of the space pirate ship Bentenmaru. The story telling is excellent and the art is fantastic. Much recommended.
posted by Chocolate Pickle at 7:16 AM on January 11, 2013

It was only a single season long, but I think Wonderfalls could fit the bill nicely. It reminds me quite a bit of Buffy in its quirky-ness, strong female lead, and magical realism world. I could see it really appealing to a teenager in that it feels very "adult" (it follows a 24-year-old, most of the cast is adult) but at the same time didn't have anything that I wouldn't consider kosher for a 13-year-old (no murder / rape a la VMars).
posted by iminurmefi at 7:18 AM on January 11, 2013 [2 favorites]

Scully is a pretty awesome female character and there are tons of X-Files episodes before the show gets awful.
posted by mmascolino at 7:18 AM on January 11, 2013 [3 favorites]

yeah, I'd put Buffy back in -- it deals with a lot of hard themes but treats them as hard themes and takes them (and almost everything else) seriously. in its hey-day it was very big with the 12-15 set (although also, and subsequently, with a lot of their elders as well)...
posted by acm at 7:20 AM on January 11, 2013

I'll second Felicity and Popular. And I was watching Buffy at 13, too.
posted by snorkmaiden at 7:24 AM on January 11, 2013

Friday Night Lights. It's not about football, it's about families and relationships.
posted by stupidsexyFlanders at 7:30 AM on January 11, 2013 [1 favorite]

Buffy is fine until season 6, when it went fairly dark with Buffy's almost masochistic sexual relationship with Spike and then the infamous rape episode. My daughter was watching when she was 12, and I made her hold off a couple years (until 14) to watch the last couple seasons. All those decisions are pretty arbitrary, though, when dealing with kids this age. If sexual themes are not a big deal with this family, then it should be okay; I think the way it deals with good and evil (and the ambiguities), growing up, addiction, friendship, family, and so on is quite good.

My daughter also FWIW would second the recommendations above for Parks and Rec, The Office, 30 Rock, Freaks and Geeks, and My So-Called Life, all of which she's watched over the last couple years (aged 12-14).
posted by torticat at 7:53 AM on January 11, 2013

My daughter is a very mature 12 yr old and I'm watching this thread with interest... She LOVES adventure time, some Disney tween shows, but mostly discovery channel stuff. How Its Made is a fav. Myth Busters and she also is a huge food network fan. Maybe give her a call and see if there is a hobby that you can focus on? Also... Google new moon girls media. They have an awesome digital magazine for this age group. My girl loves it...
posted by pearlybob at 8:34 AM on January 11, 2013

posted by elizardbits at 8:35 AM on January 11, 2013 [2 favorites]

Seconding Daria, Wonderfalls, and Parks & Rec.
Xena might be fun, especially the early seasons.
Does she like anime? If so, you might try Princess Tutu. Strong female character, the violence is mostly replaced with dancing it out.
posted by Lemmy Caution at 8:41 AM on January 11, 2013

X-Files might be on the cusp of what's considered appropriate, but I loved it at 13, it does have murder, but nothing I really think a 13-year old hasn't been exposed to already.
posted by nakedmolerats at 8:48 AM on January 11, 2013

If she likes sci-fi, Stargate SG-1. Samantha Carter is a very strong character and often saves the day. SG-1 is pretty tame (re: realistic/serious issues of death, etc.), it's mostly rather comic violence with lots of explosions, people getting tossed around, but it's not gory. It's tame until Season 7, "Heroes, Part 1" and "Heroes, Part 2" which just drags you out the street and curb-stomps your emotions.

Also sci-fi, Farscape. Aeryn Sun is a total badass.

Totally Daria.
posted by xedrik at 8:54 AM on January 11, 2013 [3 favorites]

Gravity Falls is a quirky, funny, tween-oriented cartoon with some very interesting deep mythology that has been baked into the show since the beginning. Lots of mysteries. They are still in the first season, so I don't think it's on DVD yet.
posted by Rock Steady at 8:54 AM on January 11, 2013

posted by barnone at 9:00 AM on January 11, 2013

I went through a Gavin and Stacey marathon recently and loved it. Casual sex but otherwise fine for a 13-year-old, and the female characters are great.
posted by jabes at 9:02 AM on January 11, 2013


I thought about Glee as well, but I have a complicated relationship with it. I love it because it's awesomely bad, but I would be concerned about the "strong female character" or general modeling of adult relationships on that show. It has some pretty absurd plot lines where adults act like complete idiots (here be spoilers)

(like in the first season, when closeted gay character threatens to kill an out gay character, and the response of all but one of the school faculty is basically "oh well, high school bullying" and the show doesn't present this as A PROBLEM. Among others..)

I'm just saying... as an adult, I can laugh at its farcical-ness, but I'd be more worried about what a teenager would take from it than most murder/drug/crime shows)
posted by nakedmolerats at 9:22 AM on January 11, 2013 [3 favorites]

It has some pretty absurd plot lines where adults act like complete idiots (here be spoilers) (like in the first season, when closeted gay character threatens to kill an out gay character, and the response of all but one of the school faculty is basically "oh well, high school bullying" and the show doesn't present this as A PROBLEM. Among others..

Well sure, it has some issues that aren't resolved in one episode. In your example, that's true that faculty weren't initially on Kurt's side. But you know what? That's what happens in many schools. It rang more true than a school filled with teachers who were always already against gay bullying. Remember, this was in the height of It Gets Better campaign, where people speaking up against gay bullying is still an anomaly, not the usual course of action. There might be one good ally but it's not enough.

And in the end, lots of other folks DID see it as a problem, and the kid came out, and the support and integration of gay characters (including Santana) is a continual struggle -- but it's something they highlight, not pretend it doesn't exist. It shows the 'strong' female football coach, in her glory and in her weakest moments, and it has a trans character who not only survives but triumphs over parents and mocking students, and it engages with disability, homelessness, class mobility (both upwards and downwards), teen pregnancy and girls recognizing misogynist behavior even within their club. The power of good TV isn't just the resolution in one episode, but the longterm story arc.

Anyway. All shows like this have some issues which parents or teens might not like. Glee has strong characters in a variety of bodies and genders and sexualities and races, and it actually does bring up those differences as they impact the kids. Not many other contemporary shows on US television do that.

Sorry for the derail, but you can find problematic episodes or storylines in basically any long-running television show, and I personally think Glee is a great show for 13 year old American girls. You're right, it might not be right for this kid, but it's a bit dishonest to assume that it's a farcical idea that adults wouldn't be automatically pro-gay students in the middle of Ohio in 2012-2013. That's just reality.
posted by barnone at 10:00 AM on January 11, 2013

Also, thinking along the lines of "if she likes sci-fi" the Syfy TV show Eureka was generally silly and light, but also features some nice romance threads, and piles of competent women scientists.

Two of the still-running Syfy shows also feature well-rounded women characters. Warehouse 13 is fairly light until the most recent season, which as dull anyway. I find Haven a little more emotionally affecting but the plots are all supernatural-based so they have some shielding from reality.

And finally, Kyle XY is a dopey-sweet show that really read to me as being specifically aimed at teen-agers. Nice family relationships in this one.
posted by Squeak Attack at 10:10 AM on January 11, 2013 [1 favorite]

If she's seen Friends, what's too adult about Buffy?

I was a huge Star Trek fan at her age, but if she's not geekily inclined that may not be a great suggestion.

Doctor Who started as a children's show, and while there are occasional adult themes (like that episode with the tongue in cheek implications about oral sex), it's still pretty teen friendly. Then again Friends and New Girl have tongue in cheek implications about oral sex every episode, so.

The X-files is a little bit dark violent death-ish, but I loved it at her age.

Oh, god, Degrassi, yes.

Almost all of How I Met Your Mother, 30 Rock, and Parks and Recreation are on Netflix instant.
posted by Sara C. at 12:27 PM on January 11, 2013

My husband and I really enjoyed Make It or Break It. It's about 4 girls trying to make it to the Olympics as gymnasts.
posted by fyrebelley at 1:27 PM on January 11, 2013

Switched at Birth (available on Netflix streaming) is an ABC family show about two families with girls who were accidentally switched in the hospital. Good family dynamics, interesting insight into the deaf community and enough drama to make it fun. And I second Friday Night Lights.
posted by Sukey Says at 4:00 PM on January 11, 2013

Seconding dance academy which is currently streaming free via abc I view

(not a direct link- takes you to the program area for you to launch i-view

Probably a bit dated but I used to love the secret world of Alex mack
posted by insomniax at 6:56 PM on January 11, 2013

Community! Keeps it pretty PG, is hilarious, and is full of lessons about how to be a person.

Seconding Futurama, Parks & Rec, & those who say Buffy is fine for 13-year-olds.
posted by anotherthink at 10:03 AM on January 12, 2013

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